Monday, May 29, 2006

Yesterday's Trip: Berkley Springs, WV

Yesterday, a friend and I, traveled to Berkeley Springs, West Virginia and the surrounding area. We toured the town and went to the nearby Capacon State Park.

It was a lovely Sunday as we drove about an hour and half from where I live in the Washington, DC metro area.

As we were driving in the northern limits of the DC metro area we saw a large amount of houses for sale. These were both new homes and existing homes. These pictured signs were clustered near Georgia Ave (97) and interstate 70.

We continued and drove interstate 70 west and took that all the way to 522, which took us through Berkeley Springs, WV. Berkeley Springs is a rural community where there is a solid tourism base. We noticed 4 real estate companies and a bunch of for sale and for rent signs. It certainly appeared to be bubblicious.

Brand new office housing a mortgage and homes building company

GPS Device @ top of the mountain overlook @ Capacon State Park

Mountain overlook @ Capacon State Park

Business in Berkeley Springs

Having fun assessing the real estate boom.

Small water pool in Capacon State Park


  1. David - Bubbleheads must think a like. My wife and I considered going to Berkerly Springs this weekend but we drove to Pittsburgh instead. I checked real estate listing in the Pittsburgh newpaper - prices not anywhere close to DC.

    NOVA Fence Sitter

  2. bryce,

    I deleted your comment bc it broke rule 2 of the Blog Rules.

  3. "Sedentary suburbanites" isn't name calling David. The data are out there; look into it if you'd like to see the facts surrounding the sedentary lifestyle of the vast majority of people in this country (the vast majority live in the.... wait for it..... "suburbs")

    Sedentary suburbanites DO think alike.

    What do you want to do on this beutiful weekend? Let's go for a looooooonnnnnggggggg drive in a car!


  4. bryce,

    ""Sedentary suburbanites" isn't name calling David."

    When you are referring to me and NOVA FenceSitter it cetaibly is

    You are getting annoying. The drive is not the point of the trip. The point is to walk outside in the lovely woods and see the scenery. The driving is a means of transportation.

  5. I'm so sorry for assuming that you are a sedentary suburbanite. Mea Culpa; Thank you for setting the facts straight.


  6. bryce--

    I have a question for you. You are a big bubble denier for DC the city. But what about the DC suburbs? You are so negative on them (as if they were a completely different market), that I have to ask-- do you think there is a bubble in suburban DC house prices? If you do, why do you think it is so impossible that DC prices are bubblicious also?

    A Redskins fan

  7. "Denier"? When did I say that prices wouldn't see a rollback in the near term? In fact, I've said that outer-burban areas are due for a long decline for a variety of reasons that I'm sure you can discern without my repeating them.

    I never said that prices wouldn't fall back. But the emotions of the bubbleheads seem to preclude their ability to acheive a balanced perspective on all things, including my comments.

    I would NEVER pay $500K for a 1000sf shoebox highrise condo in Arlington. Lots and lots of people have done just that.

    I WOULD pay that and more for a solid, well-built, 100+ year old multi-level house in the center of this metropolitan area; aka Washington DC. Real estate values in DC proper have been artificially depressed for decades. Please look into that before jumping right back at me and saying it isn't true. (start with the history of DC circa 1963)

    Many, many neighborhoods in DC have simply experienced long overdue upward corrections in their value.


  8. and... I said:

    "I WOULD pay that and more.."

    I paid substantially less than the figure I mentioned for precisely the home I described. (w/30 yr. fixed conforming)


  9. David,

    You seem overly sensitive and defensive of late. This "censoring" is a little over the top don't you think?

    I know that I have been called far worse than sedentary on this board.

  10. va_investor,

    "You seem overly sensitive and defensive of late. This "censoring" is a little over the top don't you think?"

    No. Deletions have increased. There are new rules on this blog.

  11. David,

    Your subjection interpretations of "rule breaking" are somewhat disturbing.

    I concur with the ban on profanity and such; bbut to delete "sedentary suburbanite" is absurd. If this is an indiction of your rule interpretation, I question the value of this blog.

    We will get to see only the comments that don't annoy you.

  12. va_investor,

    "Any personal insults directed at me or commentators on this site will be deleted. Calling me or others 'stupid', 'moron', 'pathetic' is NOT allowed. Ad Hominem attacks are not allowed against me or commentators. [However, one can call a particular comment 'pathetic', 'moronic' etc if they give a reason.]"

    'Sedentary suburbanite' was an insult directed at me and a commentator.

    Personal insults will NOT be tolerated.

  13. I guess you never went through the "sticks and stones" phase of grade school.

    Last week you deleted several of my comments that were not, in my opinion, insulting to you or anyone else.

    sedentary suburbanite aka va_investor.

  14. "We will get to see only the comments that don't annoy you. "

    It's been a banner day; at least 50 percent of my posts have been deleted, and the "worst" thing I said was "sedentary suburbanite".

    You should have seen the contrite apologies I made. They were deleted too.

    If you don't want strangers inside your head, david, then don't reveal so much about yourself on the Internet.


  15. "If you don't want strangers inside your head, david, then don't reveal so much about yourself on the Internet."

    This is my blog. I will reveal what I want to reveal which is not much. Stop harassing me or else you WILL be DELTED.

  16. Bryce, you seem to spend a whole lot of time at your computer typing nasty remarks directed at David and others. Maybe you're a sedentary urbanite. But I guess that anyone who lives in DC can do no wrong, while someone who lives in the suburbs is a shameful individual, not worthy of any respect. Seriously, give me a break. Your holier-than-thou attitude is just plain annoying. Living in DC does not make someone a better person than someone who lives in the suburbs. Plenty of people who live in DC have cars also, and they use them to go places -- so what?


  17. I wonder what Bryce would think of me-a 'total outsider' living in the 'hinterlands' of Connecticut (Tolland county)

    In any case it seems there is an increasing amount of nastiness and vitriolic attacks on some of these blogs. Must be the huge

    amount of 'economic insecurity' many of us face; our jobs, Iraq, debt, sky high health care costs, lack of pensions, volatile stocks

    high energy costs- seems this frustration is spreading into many of the blogs. Is this telling us something about the state of the

    nation in 2006?

  18. "Real estate values in DC proper have been artificially depressed for decades. Please look into that before jumping right back at me and saying it isn't true. (start with the history of DC circa 1963)"


    LOL. Frankly, you are another newcomer who doesn't know what he is talking about. DC proper started losing population sometime in the 1950s, and then had serious rising crime right up until around 1995 or so.

    Prices were depressed... for some very good reasons.

    I agree with you that condos in Arlington are bubblicious.

    A Redskins fan

  19. "newcomer"? I moved to DC in 1992.

    Population decline in the 1950's is attributable to Eisenhower's Interstate Highway initiative and the return of American manufacturing capacity from war goods to durable consumer goods. Do yourself a favor and look into a man named "Levitt" and see how he reshaped both the landscape and the American society in the 1950's. The trend that started in the 1950's in DC was applicable across all major US cities; especially NYC.

    Go back to the 60's and look at the race riots for the root cause of depressed values. Most of DC never recovered. There is no reason a beautiful, well-made home less than 1 mile from the US Capitol, (that is walking distance for the non-sedentary, by the way) less than three miles from the White House, in the center of a stable, viable job market, is worth less than an 975sf highrise condo in Bethesda. Especially when the suburbs are now more congested than the city center. (Did you know there is a building hieght restriction in DC?) Get it? Finite resources.

    Frankly, Skins Fan; I'm biased against people who declare themselves a "Redskins Fan". The NFL is lame, the people who follow the NFL are typically overweight lemmings, and I'm part Cherokee. (all true)


  20. Here Skins Fan, I'll provide a head start for you in understanding population trends in the US following WWII:

    Remember, the suburban lifestyle did not exist until the middle of the 20th century. This is the genesis of our consumer culture.


  21. bryce-

    I'm not going to look at all your links because I am familiar with a lot of that material.

    And regardless, it is immaterial to what I said. You said that prices in DC had been artificially depressed since 1963. I was pointing out that there were good reasons why prices were low. Now you offer more in-depth reasons why. Fine... it seems you are now coming around to what I said in the first place (i.e., that there were real reasons in terms of declining population and dramatically rising crime- the specifics of which we can debate all day).

    I retract my statement about you being a newcomer. I was wrong, and it was an unfounded accusation. Sorry.

    Bryce, there are many reasons why a house a few blocks from the Capitol was (a decade ago) worth less than one in Bethesda. Lower taxes in Bethesda. Lower crime in Bethesda. Police came when you called in Bethesda, etc. And DC was not a great job market in 1995.

    Are things changing? For the moment, yes. How long will it last? I don't know. But there were good reasons why DC real estate was cheap a few years ago... and maybe not all those reasons are gone. DC is not a permanent bull market... the job market does go south sometimes.

    I don't disagree with you that the exurbs may be in for hard times also. I think everything within 50 miles of DC is bubblicious. It has more to do with easy credit than the specifics of each real estate market.

    A Redskins fan

  22. Bryce,

    That "newcomer" crack certainly sounds like an insult to me.

    sedentary suburbanite aka va.

  23. "real reasons in terms... "

    You cannot talk about popultion decline and crime without talking about institutionalized racism. Look toward the public policy that made vast swaths of our nation's capital literal warzones, all while suburban sprawl crept across (and destroyed) the landscape and took "nice folks" out of DC.

    If racism is a "real reason" for you, and you accept that as a part of everyday life; you aren't the strong man you seem to think you are. You're either on board with DC being something you can be proud of, or you aren't. *RACISM* in the 1960's tore our nation's capital apart and it *only* JUST started to turn around in the past 6-7 years. Think about that. And think about all the "nice folks" like you who sit just on the other side of the DC border and look down your noses at your own nation's capital. It is shameful, really. (I grew up in the cold midwest, by the way)

    Beleive me; I'm not "coming around" to any of your positions. Can you see that? I know perfectly well about population migration and crime statistics in DC. You sit on the sidelines, I don't.

    I'm fine with ethno-centric football fans, and their cars, staying out of DC. Our nation's capital needs enlightened individuals.


  24. LOL. Nice try, bryce. It is a fact that crime went way up in DC proper for a long time. And it is also a fact that population declined. You are the one imagining the rest of my motivations.

    I don't "look down my nose" at DC. I love DC. But, as a Marylander, I love Maryland more. I have nothing against DC.... which does not mean that I think that the house prices there are rational.

    I plead guilty to being a football fan, though.

    Bryce, what you seem to be trying to do is bait people into this suburbs vs. city argument. I can only speak for myself, but I think that most bubble-believers think that BOTH the DC burbs AND the city itself are in bubbles. I certainly do. I think cities, suburbs, and ex-urbs all have advantages and disadvantages, but comparing them when prices of all three have skyrocketed is not really useful.

    IMHO, the thing that has made Arlington condos be priced at nearly a million while exurban townhouses go for a half a million is the same thing that has made DC properties explode in price also... a bubble based mostly on easy credit. All the rest is a sideshow.

    A Redskins fan

  25. To NOT see that block after block after block of beautiful homes in DC within eyesight of the US Capitol Dome are worth more than nothing, is foolish.

    The city was *giving homes away* in the 80's. So you're saying that a reversion to the mean is probable. The mean home price for most of DC outside of _upper_ Northwest over the past 25 years is, what?

    So *now* you can get a multi-level solid brick victorian for $400K; a home that was deeded to a previous owner for 1 dollar and a promise to cut the weeds in the front yard. You're saying it will fall back to somewhere closer to $1?

    Why did block after block after block of beautiful old solid brick victorian era homes within eyesight of the US Capitol Dome become worthless? See my previous post on institutionalize racism, the Eisenhower highway initiative, and the "invention" of the mass-produced suburban community.

    A previous poster said that prices will revert to the mean if a thermonuclear device is detonated downtown. I've been saying the same thing for years. When that happens, all you renters can pick and choose which property you want to purchase for pennies on the dollar and live comfortably knowing that you were right.


  26. I went to Harper's Ferry and Charleston are last weeked and noticed it was bubblicous out there. I lived in this area for about 20+ years and Harper's Ferry was an escape from the rat race. Now it seems the rat race is expanding to that area so I will have to drive further away. It's getting more and more expensive to take a break from the rat race.

  27. bryce-

    A homicide rate of over 400 a year for almost a decade was not some sort of institutionalized irrationality. It was a real problem. Things have calmed down somewhat, and I hope they continue to do so.

    Furthermore, even if you are right that all the demand factors point up for homes inside DC (and I say this only for the sake of argument), don't you think the gigantic DC price rise is part of a larger phenomenon? After all, it isn't just "beautiful" homes within sight of the Capitol that have had skyrocketing prices-- those townhouses in Loudoun that you hate have also skyrocketed. Don't you think there is something related in the two phenomena, like maybe easy credit?

    A Redskins fan

  28. For those complaining about David's delete key being in overdrive lately: It's his blog and he can cry if he wants to. He's free to delete anyone and everyone that he wants for whatever reason, no matter how arbitrary it may seem. It's his blog; he sets the rules.

    But to delete contrarians for "personal attacks" while neglecting to delete similar attacks made by bubbleheads against those who don't share the bubble viewpoint, is a bit hypocritical.

    Likewise, if the purpose of this blog is to have free and open debate on the issue of real estate bubbles, then deleting contrarian viewpoints is hardly a way to maintain credibility on the issue.

    Debate, not deletion, is the way to win the argument.

  29. "But to delete contrarians for "personal attacks" while neglecting to delete similar attacks made by bubbleheads against those who don't share the bubble viewpoint, is a bit hypocritical."

    I really try to delete any and all personal insults. Believe it or not I do NOT read every comment.

    "Likewise, if the purpose of this blog is to have free and open debate on the issue of real estate bubbles, then deleting contrarian viewpoints is hardly a way to maintain credibility on the issue."

    The vast majority of contrarian viewpoints are NOT deleted. Those that break the blog rules are very likely to be deleted.

  30. "It was a real problem."

    No kidding? I wasn't aware.....

    What are the underlying factors of the problem? People with handguns in a city where handguns are outlawed? Some sort of genetic flaw that makes violent criminals flock to DC to feed upon one another in an orgy of death and drugs? No, that isn't it.

    Oh wait; it was policy that turned the inner city of this and other major US cities into warehouses for the poor, the uneducated, the addicted, and the disadvantaged. (something that doesn't happen in other parts of the western world, where the disenfranchised live in the 'burbs) That, in turn, kept Silver Spring "safe" for the "nice folks" like you during the 70's and 80's, and bred a culture of self-reinforcing violence and despair in the city.

    Well, 'Skins watcher; those days are over. I'm not talking about housing prices here; I'm talking about a fundamental shift in the social fabric. Go back to my previous posts about the hundreds of billions in private and federal money in the pipeline to bring new services to an entirely new city. Target. Lockheed Martin. Trader Joe's for cryin' out loud. The poverty and despair of decades is winding down, and you folks on the other side of the border miss the good old days of knowing in your heart of hearts that you are better than "us folks" who live in DC.

    Now you're back to trying to test me on whether or not I think townhouses in Loudoun County are overpriced. Of course they are. Go back and read several weeks worth of my posts about lack of amenenities, congestion, and poor build quality in the suburbs.

    Is it so very impossible for you to accept that neighborhoods in your nation's capital that have been down for decades have finally bounced back?

    Look into Logan Circle and the area around Union Station. WALK around those areas. They are *fundamentally* different from the way they were when I moved here in 1992.


  31. Did you get the caches?

  32. Well said, Fritz.

  33. bryce-

    You keep trying to turn this into something it is not. I have nothing against DC the city; I actually like it quite a bit. I don't agree that there are as many good reasons for high prices, but that is somewhat beside the point.

    Prices all over the DC area have risen, not just in the city itself. You are setting up a fight as if there are a bunch of urban-bashers here. That is not the case. Most of the bubbleheads also believe that there is a bubble in the suburbs. So why are you focusing on this other issue (suburbs vs. city) which is really beside the point, and then imagining your opponents hate cities?

    A Redskins fan

  34. "So why are you focusing on this other issue (suburbs vs. city) which is really beside the point, and then imagining your opponents hate cities?"

    This isn't at all the case. I'm stating (and restating, and restating again) the simple fact that "vast areas of our nation's capital have been undervalued for decades".

    "Undervalued" means literally that the city took abandoned homes and gave them away. As I mentioned, these homes are within walking distance of the seat of power in the modern world (the US Capitol).

    If anything, the overpriced burbs lead people to look for value. What better value than dramatically UNDERpriced and long overlooked homes in the center of everything?

    Now you expect me to beleive that their value will go back to essentially nothing. I say that will happen when Armageddon comes and the United States goes the way of the Roman Empire. Yes, that could happen; but not if a lot of people who actually care have something to say about it.

    Washington is NOT Herndon, or Silver Spring, or even Arlington. Not even close.


  35. Bryce,

    I'll bite. From reading your comments, the only consistency I can detect is that you believe City centers are on the rise to the detriment of the suburbs. This is parallel to western european developments. In effect, the wealthy, intelligent, and elite congregate towards the city centers with the outcasts migrating to the city limits - or suburbs.

    The problem is, America has not followed the European style. The American dream was sold as owning a big home, with a big yard out in the middle of nowhere safe from the big bad city.

    I do think we will see a gradual shift to European growth/zoning values but I do not believe it will be dramatic or fast. Probably on the order of 20-30 years to develop. Generational level thing.

    Having said that, I still don't understand your continued attacks against Silver Spring, Herndon, and Arlington. All of those locations have sections of high density living (the city center you extoll) with jobs, night life, restaurant and park/recreation facilities in walking distance... Well, Herndon may be a bit lacking but Reston at least can compete a little.

    My $0.02.

  36. Yeah, bryce's attacks on some of these places are a little weird. Silver Spring was designed by people who agree with bryce about how a city should look- high density downtown with lots of jobs and amenities, easy public transportation, and easy pedestrian access to everything. (I drive about once a week and can walk to everything else). Also, Silver Spring borders DC, so it's hardly an ex-urb. Whether all that is good or bad is another issue; I am just presenting some facts.

    Now on to opinion... I find it difficult to believe that a bubble has developed in the suburbs and not the main city. In fact, if I remember correctly, the percentage of buyers using ARMs in the city in 2005 was higher than in the suburbs, and I take that to mean more marginal buyers. I don't mean this as a city vs. suburb debate; I believe there is a bubble in BOTH places.

    A Redskins fan

  37. I guess it goes back to those who read my posts being offended without actually taking the time to try to understand what I'm saying.

    I say "Homes in DC that were deemed worthless or were radically undervalued by the market for nearly 40 years now have value because of A, B, and C"

    You say "No, those homes will revert to the mean (close to being worthless) because of high crime, the fact that condos cost so much in Falls Church, and because banks have loosey-goosey lending policies, etc. etc."

    Then I say "There is high and growing gang activity in Sterling, Arlington, and Alexandria VA" (Someone had his hands chopped off with a machete in Alexandria in the last year or two, remember? the gang activity in DC is lower now than it is in Seven Corners VA)

    I also say: "High congestion, poor building quality (see: Sterling & Ashburn) in the suburbs definately point to homes being overvalued there"

    Then you say "Geez, you sure are anti-suburban. BTW, rampant consumerism lead to this bubble"

    Then I say: "I agree, look at Levittown NY as the genesis of high density, low quality, consumption-oriented suburban living which also lead to social isolation and unhealthy lifestyles. (See: Obesity Epidemic)"

    Then you say: "Geez you sure are anti-suburban. BTW, rampant consumerism lead to this bubble"

    Then I say, "I agree, look at Levittown NY as an example..."

    ad nauseum. :-)


  38. Housing as jump all around us, I have growen up in Berkeley Springs. Three hundred gets me a three bedroom, two bath on four acres and pond. It's what I paid for the gated condo in VA. with pool and gym. The drive in the mourning or being a slave to the Amtrak sucks. I really enjoy the endless choices of going out in D.C. Then again being able to see the stars at night is cool to in WV. I have a degree in Computer Forensics, useless in Berkeley Springs. When I retire I don't want anything but a sail boat warm weather and a endless supply of rum.